Stickman's Weekly Column June 17th, 2007

Dealing With Confrontation


This past Friday night a couple of friends got perilously close to ending up on the front page of the national papers. Having lugged down a few beverages, they got themselves into a fracas with a taxi driver after the subject of conversation turned to Thaksin. Like many Westerners resident in Thailand they don't think much of Thaksin and in a boisterous state they were not shy to tell the driver what they thought of the deposed Prime Minister.

Hearing about not just his hero, but his potential saviour, talked about in such a derogatory way, the driver was not just less than impressed. He was angry. He wasn’t going to hear his hero, Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra, talked about like that!

He pulled the taxi over and got out. He went to the boot and opened it. My friends were a little concerned at his actions and were watching him closely. As they saw him pull a shotgun out of the rear of they vehicle they defied their drunken state and bolted, doing their best Carl Lewis impression up and legged it up the road. Fortunately that was the end of the matter.

One can find themselves in some unusual situations in Thailand, and in situations of confrontation legging it is sometimes the best option.

If you find yourself in a sticky situation in Thailand, what are the best options to extricate yourself? The sorts of situations you may find yourself in, in Thailand, can be quite different from what you experience in the West, and so too are the methods of getting out of them.

Perhaps the best piece of advice I can give is to make an effort to try and understand Thai society. This is more difficult than it sounds for few farangs really have any real understanding of Thai society, myself included, but really, the greater your understanding of how the society works, the better prepared you are to make a decision on how to react in any given situation. Being able to predict with some accuracy how people will react in a given situation vastly improves you chances of making the best decision.

Understanding the language helps to understand society. It is not an absolute, but it sure helps. It also helps you to know what is going on around you at any given moment.

OK, so you have got yourself into a situation. Someone is not happy with you. They are glaring at you. They might be cursing you and in a worst case scenario they might be making credible threats against you. A crowd is starting to form…

The first thing to be aware of when it comes to confrontation in Thailand is that the rule of law is not always used in deciding who is right and who is wrong. Don’t think that because you are legally “in the right” that you will win. Other more complicated issues often enter the equation.

A good example of this is the law regarding the age of consent in Thailand. According to the law, 15 years of age is the legal age of consent. But if you were to do the dirty with someone aged over 15 and her family took exception to it then there could be very serious consequences even though “technically” you may not have done anything wrong. That is why understanding society to some extent is helpful.

So what are the options for the average Westerner who gets into an argument with a local? You can run. You could fight. You could try and reason with the person you are in a dispute with. You could call a friend. You could call the cops. That is probably the extent of your options.

While I don’t think running from a problem is often the best option, when one’s immediate safety is in serious danger and it looks as though talking through the problem just isn’t an option, then legging it isn't a bad idea. In the example of my friends with the aggrieved taxi driver, they almost certainly chose the best option. He was not a man to be reasoned with – in fact neither he nor they may have had the language skills to be able to work through the issue.

Besides, he almost certainly felt that face had been lost and so in his mind the situation had already been taken to the next level.

You've got to be very careful of not causing a Thai to lose face. Denting their honour is never a good thing.

Fighting in Thailand is seriously bad news. The oxymoronic gentleman’s rule of not hitting someone when they are down just doesn’t exist here, in fact the complete opposite would appear to be true. In cases of physical confrontation in Thailand, once an opponent is down it is seen as a chance to really hurt them so that they cannot get up and come after you!

When a farang gets involved in a fight in Thailand, he doesn’t fight just one opponent. He fights 65 million. And even if you win the fight, if you so much as bruise your opponent or cause him to bleed, expect him to go straight to the coppers posing as an innocent downtrodden victim. He will then have the full force of the law on his side. All else will be forgotten and you will then be looked on as a hoodlum who used greater size to physically dominate an innocent local. Yes, all other facts may suddenly become irrelevant.

I cannot re-iterate enough the importance of avoiding physical confrontation in Thailand at all costs. Just do not get into a fight. No good can come of it. You may size up your opponent and perhaps think that you are bigger and can get the better of them. Don’t do it!

And whatever you do, don’t make veiled threats, or threats that you have no intention or ability to follow through with. You will almost certainly get caught out and it could backfire horribly.

Ok, so you have been in Thailand a few years and know a few people. You might even have a few so-called hi-so Thai friends and perhaps some friends in the police force. Many a farang feels that he can go about his business and do as he wishes with complete impunity because of his local connections. It seldom works like that. Be very, very careful if you feel you have influential friends who can assist you in resolving an issue.

The first thing to be aware of is that the average Thai, in all likelihood, has more influential friends than you. They also understand the system better than you.

Calling on influential friends should be seen as an absolute last resort. Use them only if you are really under the hammer and looking at very nasty, possibly even unbearable consequences. And unless they are genuine friends, don’t think your so-called influential buddies will be delighted at you calling them and getting them involved in the dispute. Most Thais feel an obligation to assist when asked for help, especially if it is a foreigner doing the asking. So while they may come to your assistance, don’t think that they are necessarily pleased about it. However, if you have a genuine friendship with an influential or powerful Thai and are genuinely a victim, then they will almost certainly be there for you.

I have always felt the easiest way to overcome a dispute in Thailand is to smile and show willingness to compromise. And remember, never lose your cool. It might be totally clichéd but it really does help. As soon as you lose your cool you have lost the battle. Take the moral high ground.

If a dispute turns nasty and the boys in brown are called you may find yourself heading to the local police station. Be warned that you may well end up wasting a good chunk of the day. Disputes can take a long time to work through. Unless you are the victim of a crime, you may well wish to avoid the cop shop environment. You will of course be scrutinised, your passport called for to check that you are in Thailand legally. Just arranging for your passport to be brought to the cop shop may take hours. And at the end of it all, irrespective of whether you were in the wrong or not, a fee may be required. If you were in the wrong, sometimes a few baht is a small price to pay to avoid going to the cop shop altogether.

It’s not a good idea to turn your back on problems, or shirk responsibility, especially in a foreign country, but if things do get ugly, and you think you can get away then legging it may just be the best option. If your personal safety is at risk, or you have falsely been accused of something that you didn’t do and the situation is threatening to turn ugly, then bolting is an option. They may be able to fight, but I have seen few Thais who can keep up with a fit farang in a straight leg race. Just make sure you know the environment and the possible exits and you might just be able to make it! Good luck!

Where was this picture taken?


Last week's picture was taken of one of the larger condo buildings on the Chao Praya River, not far from Pahurat and Chinatown. This week's picture is not as difficult as it looks… There are four prizes each week and the first four people to identify where the picture above was taken and email me with the answer win a prize. You can choose from a 500 baht credit at Oh My Cod OR a 500 baht credit at Lennie's OR a 500 baht credit at Catz Gogo OR a 500 baht credit at Octopussy Bar in Hua Hin. Each of the prize providers is in a different area so please specify which prize you would prefer. Oh My Cod – Khao San Road area. Lennie's – Pattaya. Catz – Pattaya. Octopussy – Hua Hin. This week's picture is back in Bangkok.

FROM STICK MARK II'S INBOX
(These are emails from readers and what is written here was not written by Stick Mark II)

Thai degree ten times the price of a Western degree!

There are no ABAC diplomas available on Khao San Road. I once asked for it to see if they have only western ones. They said Thai university will be 10 x the price of a Western one. And they said they would not do it with a pure heart!

Land of let out stations!

An ironic thought came to me the other day, that here we are in land that goes out of it's way to take care of a man's sexual needs, but on the other hand expects him to bottle up and suppress all his other kinds of frustrations. By that I mean what they proverbially refer to as 'let out stations' are nearly as ubiquitous as Seven Elevens, if you know where to look. Whilst at the same time expressing any kind of emotional outbursts is really frowned upon. Funny that.

Glorified pimps?

If I said ten years ago that foreign authorities would pursue paedophiles out here in the East you would have probably said that would be highly unlikely, so may it be the same case in the future of farangs living off immoral earnings as bar and gogo managers and owners? Personally I'm no prude, but there's something very tacky about finding your own ilk working in these industries, something sticks in my gullet when I think that there might be a westerner that might be benefiting from prostitution, glorified pimps some might argue.

Breaking the unwritten rule!

I have never understood why the foreign press has such a weak stance on Thailand. Especially in German speaking countries, they still just talk about the 'beautiful' Thai beaches. The English speaking press is better, but still, not tough enough considering the circumstances. I bet it's partly because they did not like Thaksin. And how much does the tourism lobby pay off the newspapers? Maybe this is a bit paranoid? Maybe Thailand is just thought of as lost in the jungle and not worth reporting. As long as Thailand does not send all the long term whackos back to their home countries, everybody is happy. But then, maybe they are starting to break that unwritten deal!

Credit cards are doable for farangs.

I came to Bangkok just over two years ago on a retirement visa (i.e. no work permit) and opened a savings account with Kaisikornbank. Two months later I asked for a checking account and a credit card. They OKed the former but denied my request for the latter. I later went to another branch where a friend knew somebody and was issued a Visa AND a MasterCard, both gold. Credit limit on both was 300,000 baht. All I had to provide was my passport and proof that I already have a savings and a checking account with the bank and agreed to have the payments deducted from my account automatically each month. Earlier this year both were upgraded to Platinum. Goes to show that rules, if any, can be interpreted loosely here.

The return ticket issue.

About two years ago I travelled from Norway to Thailand via Austria, flying Austria Air. While waiting to board the connecting flight I was approached by some sort of official who wanted to know how long I planned to stay in Thailand, checking my passport and ticket. The ticket was bought with return in Thailand, and that seemed to be a problem. I was let go, but I got the feeling the official was feeling two ways about it. No warnings or questions asked in Oslo, though.

If you think Thailand is a little odd.

There has been much complaining in the Stickman submissions about the political correctness that has invaded some western countries. I am paying a visit to my old homeland of England, and within the space of 12 hours I discovered the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has banned people from owning more than two dogs, and a children's entertainer has been banned from using a bubble machine as the kids might slip and hurt themselves.

Tokyo bound?

I suspect that opportunities for foreigners in Tokyo (Perhaps Asia's most expensive city) are probably more limited than Bangkok. The vast majority of jobs for gaijin here in Tokyo are also in English teaching, and monthly salary is generally the minimum monthly pay as allowed by Japanese law: 250,000 yen, or about $2,300. You'd have 20 to 25 hours of class time and perhaps two or three weeks yearly off. And this often times will include only subsidised housing where the foreigner has to pay $500 plus per month, taxes, insurance, etc. If you are lucky enough to get a university position however, you're looking at USD 65K per annum plus and four to five months off; but many universities are no longer allowing foreigners to leave their office during the student breaks, a most unfortunate trend, along with other unfortunate trends such as terminal contracts and no bonus.

Many readers would love to read screeds about what is happening in the bars but this week it is not to be. The slow season really is quiet. I went hunting for news, for gossip, for amusing stories – and could find precious little. That's not always a bad thing though, is it? Fires, fights and other bad news don't always make for a positive column. Even with some bar areas open until after 2:30 AM, the bars are quieter this week than they have been in some time. Some of the girls lamented having to stay around so late with few customers about!

There's a new gogo bar due to open in the next couple of weeks in Sukhumvit Soi 4 but not in the plaza itself. Shakers is said to be a part coyote, part gogo bar. Located on the corner of Sois 4 and 6, yes, they do actually intersect because Soi 6 loops around on to Soi 4, this venue sounds promising. More about it after it opens.

Just to confuse you with the closing times, this week the word on Cowboy was 1:00 AM closing but bars with live music could run through until 2:30 AM – but if they were bars that had both dancing AND live music, the dancing most definitely had to stop at 1 AM but liquor could still be poured until 2:30. Confused? I am!

After operating Lennie's, a sponsor of this site, on his own for about two years now, Manfred has decided to get a few other Pattaya entrepreneurs involved. The new place will be called Shooters, and it will be located in the present location of Lennie's, at the Soi Diamond entrance to Walking Street. Construction has already started, and the coming week will be the last week of Lennie's, with lots of events planned. Tonight will see the return of PSP! Paul aka PSP, the former manager at Lennie's (now at Misty's), hosts another Night at Lennie's. Monday June 18th is "Erdinger's" Hot Pants Party featuring free food including Bobs BBQ and a pig on a stick as well as some wild dancing. Tuesday June 19th is Taco Day at Lennie's with free Tacos between 7 and 10 PM. Wednesday June 20th Shooters partner and future manager, local Pattaya discussion forum personality, Bruce Mangosteen hosts the "Let's get a head start on Shooters" Party. A wild night in true Lennie's style is guaranteed, with free food provided by Bob's BBQ. Thursday June 21st is a repeat of Taco Day with free Tacos between 7 and 10 pm! Friday June 22nd is the Last Night of Lennie's Party featuring free food, free give-aways (the last T-shirts, hats, bottle condoms have to go, plus lots of other fun!) plus a mysterious birthday party! From June 23rd they will be closed for a few days and will probably have a soft re-opening as Shooters on the 29th or so, and a soft opening party on July 1st. The official opening will be the Fourth of July party scheduled for, well, July 4. That will feature an American-style barbecue, with fireworks provided by the girls. Their theme will be decidedly American and all are welcome. Shooters will also feature the great food from Bob's BBQ and Bob will be adding to the menu presently available at Lennie's; new offerings will including more Mexican food and a greater variety of Bob's famous slow-smoked bbq favorites.

Volume 3 of the popular After Dark magazine came out last Monday and Volume 4 will be coming out in about 30 days. (I'll believe it when I see it.) Look for a new name (Night Life), photos like you see in the likes of Playboy and Penthouse and an increase in size to about 60 pages from the current 40. Remember this magazine features spreads of the Isaan beauties you see in the farang oriented bars so it might make for a nice souvenir.

We're well into the low season and while plenty of guys are drinking in the bars, the barfine rate, to my eyes at least, seems to be lower. I could be wrong but it would not surprise me if fewer girls were getting barfined – and that has to be at least partially attributable to the fact that many are quoting high prices. Also, the stunt of agreeing long time and bolting after an hour hasn't won them many friends (although their Thai boyfriends / husbands won't complain!)

The new gogo bar in Patpong mentioned in last week’s column is a weird spot. Sort of like a mixed theme bar with dancing girls. Let’s see whether it takes off or not.

Pattaya's popular Blues Factory is proud to announce that the Soi Dog Blues Band from Bangkok will be performing in the bar on Monday 25th June along with The Blues Machine. The Soi Dogs haven’t performed in Pattaya for a few years now so it's a great chance for Pattaya based guys to see Jeff T and the boys again.

Ole Dave The Rave is getting with the times. He's integrated his website into a WordPress blog so readers are now welcome to post fan mail. But the poor devil needs to get his HTML skills up to scratch as the site won't work properly with users of Firefox.

Is it only me who thinks that Central World Plaza is a much more pleasant shopping experience than Paragon? OK, so I have not seen Lamborghinis, Ferraris or Porsches for sale in Central World, all of which can be procured in Paragon, and neither does Central World have the convenience of being located right next to a skytrain station. But you know what? Paragon just doesn’t have the poseurs! There is something about Paragon which I just find unpleasant, and while it has many positives – including the biggest branches of Asia Books and Kinokuniya, I still find Paragon a bit much. In fact I would rather stroll around Emporium than Paragon! Oh, and also in Central World's favour, the flagship branch of B2S Books in Central World challenges the biggest Asia Books and Kinokuniya stores in Paragon too!

UBC may have changed their name to True Visions recently but what else was changed? The average Westerner finds UBC yet another thing to bitch about in Thailand with seemingly few of us actually happy with the service and programming provided by the major nationwide cable TV provider. UBC has yet to state whether they will show the rugby world cup later this year although most seem to think that is unlikely and rugby fans will have to venture out to their favourite rugby showing pub to watch the matches. It looks like The Londoner, The Irish Xchange and Wall Street are going to do a roaring trade in October. The other rumours doing the rounds at the moment concern the English Premier League Football. Various rumours are going about but the big one is that the world's most popular soccer league will be only be available to those on the premium i.e. most expensive package. Most people I know are on the medium package which, so it would seem that football fans would essentially be forced to upgrade. Sigh.

When I hear stories of Western guys doing the dirty with katoeys, I don't know why but I get visions in my mind of some skinny, scrawny guy with no social skills whatsoever being towered over by an approaching 6 foot shemale. But the reality of the situation is quite different. Whenever I see guys around town with a shemale in tow, usually a rather attractive shemale, they are invariably alpha males, big guys, possibly even serious weightlifters, and often heavily tattooed. Just why is that?

I love the good hotel buffets in Bangkok but I've seen something of a disconcerting trend recently. Many are now charging for water! And given that one tends to drink a lot of water when feasting on a buffet, and also given that the hotel restaurants are not shy to charge as much as 65 baht ++ for a small bottle of water, there can be real damage to the bill. I can’t help but thinking that it's a bit rich not to include water, as many of the hotels used to.

What do you make of the phenomenon of Thai staff having to pay for their errors at work? What, you mean you didn’t know? I have always found it rather embarrassing that when an error is made the staff member often has to cover it – usually by a direct deduction from their pay packet. In the case of restaurants or food outlets, if the wrong food is brought to your table, at some establishments the staff has the full retail cost of the dish deducted! Given that the staff are (usually) inadequately trained and often have to take orders from people who don’t speak Thai, I find it all rather embarrassing. I have heard it said by Thais that if such policy was not in place then the staff would be sloppy as there is no disincentive. I still find it rather sad. Let’s put it another way. If your maid who you pay just a few thousand baht accidentally put your spanking white Zegna shirt that cost 5,000 baht in with the pink and it came out with a pink tinge to it, would you make her pay for a new one?! I doubt it.


Thai dating at ThaiFriendly.com

For anyone looking for an online translator, this might be just what you need. Many readers have problems communicating with Thai women or getting concepts across when they are in Farangland so this site could be useful, especially if you are chatting online or communicating by email.

I saw a diabolical scene earlier this week as I left my building on the way to the office. A couple of young kids, perhaps 6 or 7 years old, were leaving the building on their way to school. As they passed security the guards all gave the kids a wai. A deep, respectful wai. The kids looked at them in disdain and continued on their way. The wai was not returned! I could only assume that these were the kids of some big wig Thais. Goodness only knows what sort of values this is going to put in their mind. Of course, the security guards wouldn’t dream of waiing me – which is just the way I like it!

Nine months after it opened the wi-fi signal that can be found right throughout Suwannaphum Airport remains open, that is free, with no password restrictions. Yep, 9 months on and they still haven't got the payment system up! Sometimes – but not always – a broken-looking login page appears. If that happens, use user/pass test/test to log on. The end of September will mark the first anniversary of the opening of the airport. What's the best that the wi-fi signal will still be free then?!

Quote of the week. "IHT was referring to Thailand as the Teflon country, because no matter how much it screws up, Thais never seem to face any consequences."

Here's an interesting article about a Filipino who teaches English in Thailand and earns 45,000 baht a month.

Miss Udon is here to answer questions surrounding anything that confuses you in Thailand, particularly issues of the heart. Feel free to send questions in for her to answer and get the perspective of a Thai female. You and I may well disagree with what she says. The purpose of this section is to provide a Thai woman's perspective!

Question 1: I first went to Thailand last year when I was 21. I had been talking to Ay online for a few months prior to my visit. I saw Ay as a 'good' girl because she didn't smoke or drink, she spoke excellent English, she had a degree and a job in stock marketing. I also went on a number of dates with her before I could sleep with her. I spent a lot of time with Ay on my first trip to Thailand which was a month long. On returning to the US we kept in contact for all of a week. We chatted online, emailed and we'd also call and text each other. However, after that week she suddenly stopped replying to my emails and when I tried to call I found out that she'd changed her number. She never told me why she did this and it was only 10 months later that I heard from her again, and that was only because I'd emailed her telling her I was coming back, this time travelling for 4 months. She replied to the email giving me her new mobile phone number. I called and met up with her when I got to Bangkok. I spent a fair bit of time with her again. I wanted to meet her parents who were both teachers this time but for some reason she kept telling me that I could meet them, "but not today". She told me that she would be going to Holland to get her masters degree somewhere in the near future. When that day came she said a tearful goodbye and told me she loved me for the first time. As before we kept in contact for around a week then all of a sudden she stopped replying. Later on in my travels I met Bee. I met her in Khao San when she was eating with 4 of her friends, I wandered over to her and started talking (good old beer Chang!). From then I went out with Bee a number of times. Bee is also a 'good' girl (very polite, didn't drink or smoke, had a good job etc, etc.) although now I am back home the same thing has happened with her as with Ay. The first week or so she would send emails with photos of herself and when I called we would chat for a while, but now when I call her it sends me to her answer phone every time. The emails have dried up completely. I was just wandering whether this is a common trait and do Thai women lose interest or forget about Mr. Farang when he goes back home or do you think she has a new boyfriend (which, of course she is entirely entitled to do).

Miss Udon says: We Thai girls have strong feelings. We can fall in love easily when we meet someone nice. We are all sensitive. We don't know what real love is or just what are more regular feelings. Whoever we are close to, if they treat us well and care about us we will immediately feel special with them. But when they are gone and there is no more treating us nicely or hanging around with them, the special feelings will be gone especially with a guy who she was with for short time. This is what happened with your girl. When you were with them the feeling was there but when you left the feelings went too. The memories will be there for a short time and if nothing continues they will disappear completely. She did not answer your calls or emails which means she has someone at the time you were trying to contact her.

Stick Mark II says: I would suggest that the two women in this story while not necessarily naughty girls, are hardly the so-called good girls either. These girls were "farang friendly", perhaps even farang hungry. They were out for a good time, and once a guy has gone, they are on to the next. These are good time girls, ideal to have a bit of fun with, but perhaps not marriage material.

Question 2: I have been to Thailand a few times and have had my fair share of bar girls. But I'm not interested in having a relationship with them – I want to marry a good girl. I recently met an older woman. I'm 37 she's 40. I really like her, mostly because she never worked in bars and she's very attractive (she takes really good care of herself). She was married previously to a very rich old farang who is now dead and left her very wealthy (she's got at least 5 houses)! Now she knows I don't have very much money yet she keeps dropping hints as when I will be ready to take care of her financially yet she drives a 7 series BMW! When we go out I always pay for everything but I wouldn't be able to keep her in Gucci handbags or Italian shoes. Why are most Thai women obsessed with money? If it's not the sick buffalo up in Isaan then it's the Chanel dress in Silom Square. Same same.

Miss Udon says: A lady married a western guy and he is now dead and she is just 40? Wow! She seems to be of the first generation that succeeded and now has a lot of money! I can say that she is a person who most of us want to be like. Why are Thai girls obsessed with money? Let me explain… Before we didn't know much about western guys. The first we heard about western guys was from our neighbours. After they have worked in Bangkok for number of years they took a western guy up to the village and introduced him to people as their husband. That time they looked wealthy, had many accessories and spent money extravagantly. Since then the elders in the village had an idea to send their daughters and sisters to work in Bangkok and find a western guy like that to bring back to their home town. This idea started to became part of the culture of small villages. They keep telling their daughters and sisters to find a rich western man to help the family. This really happens in small towns where a good education alone is just not enough. So they go to Bangkok to work in a bar, and later Pattaya and Phuket. All to find the guy who they have been told can help the family.

Driving home on each of Friday and Saturday night I noticed soldiers deployed at key intersections in the city. There was no shortage of rumours that a new coup or a counter coup would take place on Friday or over the weekend. Well, it looks like it didn't eventuate….but who knows just what will happen next? While politics is outside the scope of this weekly rant, the political situation in Thailand does have an impact on many of the issues covered here, issues important to all of us. What will happen next?



Yours,

Stick Mark II